How can BlackBerry bridge the gap on cloud synchronization?

BlackBerry Cloud
By Chris Umiastowski on 20 Nov 2012 11:19 am EST

Many years ago, Research In Motion was one of the best in the business when it came to synchronizing user data between the PC and the BlackBerry.  This was all done via the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the BlackBerry network operations center (NOC). Emails, memos, calendar items and contacts were just some of the things that RIM synchronized from a Microsoft Outlook environment on a desktop, over to the BlackBerry.

But today, I think it's fair to say that RIM has fallen behind in its use of cloud technology.  It's not all about large enterprise users anymore.  Small businesses and consumers want the benefits of cloud synchronization too.  

Let's look at how Apple tackles this problem.  They have iCloud, which keeps emails, text messages, calendar items, and all sorts of data and media synchronized across multiple devices.   Across Macs and iOS devices, it's all built in.  And for Windows users,  they've created the iCloud control panel.  

Aside from an overwhelming sense that Apple's iMessage platform seems to be horribly unreliable, the concept (and general experience with) iCloud seems fantastic.  This is what people want.

I'm not a Microsoft Windows user anymore.  So I'm not totally up to speed on what they offer, but it seems pretty obvious that between Windows Phone 8 mobile devices and the desktop / notebook product line, Microsoft can do exactly the same thing here.

RIM is different because they have no traditional desktop computing business.  So they can't integrate the RIM cloud experience into a desktop OS at all.  But that doesn't mean they can't offer a good experience to desktop users, and keep us hooked on BlackBerry products.

Details are sparse at this point, but we are seeing some signs that a revamped desktop client is coming, called BlackBerry Link.  I hope they come up with a more creative name, but that's a secondary issue.  

I think RIM needs a super high quality dashboard experience to tie the desktop (and notebook) PC or Mac to the BlackBerry 10 world.  BlackBerry users should be able to access BBM (and BBM voice and video) from a regular computer.  BlackBerry users need an integrated way to share files and data across multiple devices.

Some will argue with me and say that we're in a post PC world.  They'll say we should ignore the legacy world of a PC operating system and focus only on the mobile computing market.  

I disagree.  Sure, one day a platform like BlackBerry 10 may function so well that I don't need a laptop or desktop.  I'll just need a big monitor and a way to connect my mobile device to that screen (and keyboard, and mouse). But I think that day long off.  The application ecosystem on something like BlackBerry 10 is very immature at this point.  It's going to be a long time before a mobile computer gives me tools equivalent to what I have today on my Macbook Pro.

So here's what I'd like to ask CrackBerry readers.  What data would you like to be able to share between your BlackBerry and your PC that you currently can't easily share? In other words, what do you feel is sorely lacking from BlackBerry Desktop Manger today that needs to be fixed in a BlackBerry 10 world?

Reader comments

How can BlackBerry bridge the gap on cloud synchronization?


iCloud is incredibly unreliable and some people would argue is a data hog and battery drain. Also, do a search on Apple address book sync and you'll see so many complaints. Same goes for media sync.

I would just like the ability to sync my contacts, emails/messages/BBMs across platforms. Pictures and other media should allow for more control. I'm perfectly happy with the WiFi/Samba option on the PlayBook for this. However, given QNX's ability to see other QNX devices and treat them as one, I would like the ability to be able to view and transfer files seamlessly between devices. Sort of like BlackBerry Bridge but with a better file manager and with greater capabilities.

I'm going to assume you're asking for contacts and emails on BIS to sync across platforms.

If that's the case, can I suggest google contacts?

As for email, doesn't the ability to access email via your browser count as 'syncing'?

I agree that BBM via desktop would be nice.
As well as continuous syncing for photos and videos.

If anyone knows how to do this, that would be greatly appreciated as I hate to go through the step of taking videos/pics on my BB/Playbook, and then having to manually connect it to my laptop to sync.

Any good workarounds that I'm not aware of yet?

Hey, thanks for replying. I tried syncing my contacts over a year ago with Google using the native Email Setup but ended up duplicating all my contacts. Others experienced the same issue. I haven't tried it since. With respect to emails, BIS still doesn't sync properly the read status of messages when a messaged is read through a desktop browser via the Gmail website. I love remote search through the native email app though.

No, accessing through the browser doesn't count, at least not for me.

If u use google sync you have to un-check syncronize contacts, & events. Other wise the 2 programs both syncing will quickly multiply your contacts & events to a huge number

Btw, I sync my main Gmail e-mail and contacts through the native BIS e-mail setup (no Google Sync), and it all works perfectly. One thing they don't say is that this takes up to a couple hours the first time for some people (it did for me). After that, it depends on the direction and device you're using, and will be anywhere from instant to several minutes. The Playbook uses Microsoft's ActiveSync (which works VERY well) and is almost always updated instantly (register the same gmail account separately on the Playbook). I have done tests where I change a phone number in my native contacts on my phone, and instantly (like within 2 seconds flat) seen it change both in the native contacts on the Playbook, and through an auto-refresh in the computer browser (did not click anything). This also updates as fast (95% of the time) for merely updating an e-mail to have been read/flagged/anything. The calendar is also syncing entry for entry, edit for edit. Just don't set multiple accounts to sync your contacts if they both have all the same contacts, or you'll then get duplicates. The ONLY little complaint I have is that Gmail address formatting usually tweaks the BB formatting for what address information goes in what fields. Anyway, just thought I'd share my experience so you're aware that BIS will sync everything perfectly through the native e-mail setup. I've only tried this with Gmail as I've had trouble syncing hotmail in the past (I only use those two). If this perfect 2-way BIS syncing only works with Gmail, well, there's your limitation, but if you use Gmail, you can't beat this setup.

agreed: BIS STILL does not do 2 way syncing (at least for gmail) which is very frustrating. I don't know if that's an issue on google's end or RIM's, but still very WTF.

Re: Contacts
Come to think of it I think I also had the same issues when I tried to sync my BB and gcontacts.

I had to go into google and fix it up, which was a huge pain.

But with that being said, since that initial pain point, whenever I've switched BBs (which has happened a lot of more frequently as I'd like to admit...) the sync process has been a seamless, 2 way sync process that hasn't failed me since.

Accessing stuff via browser is as far from syncing as fire is to water.

We're not debating accessing stuff on multiple devices ONLY. We're debating having the SAME INFO on multiple devices.

Change a contact on your phone and rest assured the same information will be available on all other devices. On that, you're suggestion to use google to sync contacts is valid (and that's what I personally recommend).

BBM over desktop falls on the old argument of letting other platforms use BBM. I see benefits and issues with that, but we're offtopic on this one. If you have a PlayBook, buy Desktop Bridge. You'll have BBM on the PC then.

For files, nothing as a proper sync, but you could look at and SugarSync.

BlackBerry Protect Baby. It works Flawlessly for me! BB Device to BB Device.
RIM just needs to expand on it and build it for the freaking PlayBook, like yesterday!
I am sure it will be available for BB10. But why not make it available now for the PlayBook. That would be such an easy way to to transfer all your contacts, notes, txts, etc, over to any BBID connected device. Just build a Sync feature into it. And all devices connected to that BBID will update.

Creating a BB Protect App for Desktop, well that would be taking a step further. Would be cool for many I am sure, but not necessary for me.

As far as syncing media, I have never liked that. This is why I hate using iTunes! I don't necessarily want to have the same pictures on my desktop that I have on my BB phone. However just how over bridge you are able to view on PlayBook! you should also be able to Send to PlayBook, or Save on PlayBook. Or any other device connected to BBID.

I have not used iCloud, I am not sure if it gives the option to do it automatically or manually. However, offering this would be ideal for those that want the option. Basically anything you want to send to the cloud, floats in there in pending status, until you command your device to sync with the files in your cloud. Not necessarily files on your device. (Maybe that's how it works now for iCloud, not sure but I like this option.)

In the mean time expanding BB Protect would be a quick fix. It seems completely plausible to me.

i love blackberry protect too ^^ i once had to reinstall the software after it got nuked when i tried to install wordpress for blackberry X( my friends told me i'd loose everything, but i didn't. i assumed i still have all my bbm contacts and some other things because i had it backed up with blackberry protect. the only downside for me is blackberry protect required the encryption disabled to get it work.

I would like to

a) sync my new pics and videos taken on my BB to my PC (or Dropbox) once I walk into my house and gain wi-fi connection

b) sync my new playlist (music) from my PC to my blackberry (and playbook), again, once Wi-fi is connected.

Hand's off - automated - no prompt or intervention on my part!

If we could have BB10 behave like some Android devices and upload all pictures taken to the cloud, that would be very good.

Maybe we'll see BOX give that option? I hear they will be tightly integrated with the new OS.

See, I would not like any of these features.. It can't be forced.. it needs to give options. I like the prompts, and all that.. you should be able to choose what syncs and what doesn't. Nothing Automatic, this drives me nuts!

Of course.. not AUTOMATICALLY automatic. Obviously I'll have to set up some rules, of what to sync and to where. But when I click that big "GO" button, I want it to do it's thing day after day, flawlessly, without me knowing. It just GETS DONE. :)

Sync while in bedside mode, charging, and connected to wifi. That would be sweet! All while you sleep. Sounds nice

Funny you mention just needing a keyboard and monitor being far off. Heins is quoted saying that's 3-5 years away with BB10. I read it on N4BB this morning. I would love it if it were like that. I'm thinking they have something up their sleve they will show off jan 30. They do have a cloud company working for them now : )

I think it's a lot closer than Chris realizes.
3-5 years is totally believable and attainable. Just think how far mobile computing has come in the last 5 years!
PC at home and work will be replaced by docking stations for our mobile devices. Everyone will carry one device, that's why I think RIM is on the right track with BB Balance.

The first thing that comes to mind is better contact management. I don't want to have too many clouds going on at once, but one built for my particular phone would be appealing.

Better contact (and calendar) management, photo & music syncing...if only BB Link will accomplish that, preferably via cloud or even through WiFi or cable, I'll be ecstatic.

And by better calendar management, I mean something akin to what my old Palm Treo had with Palm Desktop...color coded categories (without the need for a different email for each color, FFS!) that stay the same color when transferring new items to / from the phone, and a self-contained calendar that doesn't make me use Outlook or some other 3rd party system!

Music is a big one for me, not that I use it much but I would be very reluctant to loose it.

Email, contacts and calender are a must. i would be happy for a brand new calender if syncable over my tablet and PC

How many have experience with the media sync via wifi for the current line of BB's?

I think, that if there was a system where that could work 2 ways, that would be amazing. Not just for media though, but for the entire file manager on the BB. Make it so I can see everything on my BB from my computer, and wirelessly download it, and conversely, choose which files/calendars/emails i want my BB phone the ability to access.

Through in some automagical syncing options and RIM will have a damn good system, no?

I would much rather that BB users can do all they want through a website. My wife gets really frustrated in having to do some management on iTunes and then the rest through her iPhone/iCloud. Having a unified experience would be best.


Or like I said make the cloud extremely customizable.

Sync only over WiFi.
Sync Automatically
Prompt to Sync
Like Drop Box, Select/Choose which files you would like to have in the cloud. Don't send EVERYTHING to the cloud.
Manually Sync files in the cloud.
Offer to sign in online and manage content that way.

Don't force people to only use one method the way Apple does. I don't want my beloved BB to become Apple. I hate iTunes!

The best that I could hope for would be a unified media box. Where all the sources that I select are view-able in aggregate (not just the ones on the device) under the appropriate folders/ Music/ Movies etc. If I make a playlist the system should automatically push those files to the device I chose or possibly offer to stream them.

I am fairly happy with the way Sync works right now. I have my main google account and it holds my contacts and calendar appointments, and those sync directly to my BlackBerry Bold 9780 and BlackBerry PlayBook 32gb. This way, I have my mail, contacts and calendar available even when I am not at my PC and in sync with both my devices.

And that's as far as it goes. I use the Bold's Task app to keep track of tasks. I can access them on the PlayBook over Bridge. But I can't sync them. I have them stuck on one device.

Same goes for notes. One can argue for Evernote... And the smartphone version of their app is getting better... But I still find it sluggish and unreliable (I've lost noted before when adding them on the Bold).

Here is how I would do it: BlackBerry ID.

It would keep your BIS data (so you'd never have to manually set anything up again), accounts (mail and social network ones), most recent messages (20 sounds good), bookmarks, tasks, notes, contacts, calendar items and appointments in sync on all devices active over that BBID. And it would use the powerful and secure NOC for that.

BlackBerry Link (or maybe go back to BlackBerry Desktop Manager) would be the PC/Mac interface to access/manipulate all that info on a standard computer (as well as make device backups and manage applications).

We would still have the option to sync to web-based services (Gmail, Yahoo, Outloo), we could part with them and rely exclusively on BlackBerry Cloud, or use both.

But hey, what do I know...

The thing I need the mst is BBM and messages.
It would be nice to have the ability to send BBM and messages using your PC!

maybe RIM *should* get into the desktop market (after BB10 launches of course).

a simple, secure, reliable OS on a desktop/notebook form factor would be pretty sweet. there's tons of apps for posix systems.

...Like Linux, but better.

I want to be able to sync my playbook to outlook contacts and calendar on my PC and "NOT MEDIA" without having to use Google, why can't this happen?????

Good article! But you almost lost me with the "fantastic" comment regarding ICloud, which is a fantastic pita to the extent I wound up even shutting off my wife's ICloud mail on her Ipad. So please, RIM, don't go trailing after Apple.

We are on BIS and I have a 3rd party app that works as an add-on to our Exchange/Outlook to keep track of calendar and contacts, but its glitchy. The email side, of course, works optimally, always has. But I have increasingly began using Microsoft's SkyDrive, which is their version of the cloud. It would be nice if Blackberry was intergrated with SkyDrive, but the 3rd Party apps that accomplish this work very well both on my Playbook and on my 9900. I use it mostly for documents and pdf and spreadsheets. It's easier than logging onto our document management server from remote locations and searching for individual docs. I just send the stuff I'm working on and I can get to from anywhere and can even use online Office apps to edit. Hugely helpful in the aftermath of Sandy. I was able to quickly move a lot of docs I was working on to the Skydrive while we still had power, so that I could get to them and work on them even after the power went out. The resulting blackout which lasted 3 days was so widespread that it knocked out several layers of redundancy and shutting everything down. But I could get to SkyDrive throughout, so I didn't lose a day.

I generally like to keep my music and my photos separate and have often been tripped up by automatic syncing, but that is my fault because I don't pay attention. I don't want my 9900 syncing over all my home photos when I'm home, then syncing up to my workstation and transferring everything at my job. I dont' need 3 copies of everything. So maybe the cloud is a good alternative for my pc's and laptops, but I like to have certain things residing on my phone.

I'd be interested to know what app(s) you use from your 9900 to interact with SkyDrive. I use and like SkyDrive, too, but not from my Bold since their mobile site doesn't seem to work at all (for me, anyway) and I haven't found any other way to use SkyDrive outside of my PC.

I'm honestly floored that RIM didn't build in a way (either through Bridge, WiFi, or DM) to sync basic things like contacts, calendar entries, tasks, etc. I realize that the Bridge functionality was supposed to take care of that.. but frankly, I don't want to have to keep my BB synced to my PlayBook all the time. I just want to set up a contact on my 9900 and then be able to get it on my PB without having to manually add it... or use a 3rd party application to facilitate that happening.

I would say that Amazon has a good model.

If I purchase a movie on my Playbook then I should also be able to watch it on my PC and vice versa. The same goes for music. I know 7 digital, which is what I use besides BBM Music allows you to download things in four devices but I would say that experience should be a bit smoother.

In terms of work stuff, I use files all the time (mostly Excel) and use MACROS to automate many tasks. So, I would love to be able to just have the file in the cloud and then pull it into whatever system I'm using.

Everything you said in the article made sense to me and I hope RIM does implement this.

A lot of this is built into BES and Mobile Fusion now. It's not a big leap to imagine a hosted Mobile Fusion service that includes database backup (and content backup, as an extra-cost option) and/or content sync with existing cloud providers (Google's Apps, DropBox, iCloud, Windows Live/Skydrive/Hotmail/Zune/whatever-Microsoft-is-calling-it-this-week), or IMAP/POP+some kind of file sync. It'd certainly be a set up from BIS.

RIM has a reasonable amount of expertise as a go-between, and this is a natural extension of that.

For example: at work we use BlackBerries and BES, back-ending onto Google's GMail service using the GMail BES connector. It actually works well, and it'd be better for supporting Drive, Groups, Voice and such natively.

Further, It'd also be interesting to see them position themselves as cloud-abstraction service. Right now one of the issues with cloud services is that you're locked into a specific provider's ecosystem. RIM has another opportunity, as they don't have a horse in that race, to value-add atop the others as a way to offer the same experience to users, and especially mobile or corporate users, regardless of the cloud platform.

WOW!!! An amazing question, as I have just entered the delima of a huge drawback to my 9900. Make a long story short...I purchase an Akitio 2-bay cloud as my wife is a picture-holic but owns an android phone...With her phone and the Akitio cloud setup she can tak a quick photo and with the press of a few buttons up load it to our personal cloud at home...Well here is were the BB will go to the page on my cloud but there it commands appear to be executed...I thought this strange and decided it was the lack of sofware support so i upgraded to the synology version of thier 2-bay cloud..after days (it seemed) of getting my pictures, music and documents back on to this cloud thing i have the same problem. NO BB Support.....Now while i do understand that its the company's, that make the unit, perrogative to support a certain device, there has to be a simple solution as I love (LOVE) my BB and would hate to be separated from it, but life needs to be a little more simpler...Don't you think....BB10 may or may not have that suport as well...but I can alway wish for it to......MY TWO CENTS.

Users should not be bothered with the OS. The OS should seamlessly and invisibly facilitate the operation of apps, which is what we users want. For personal use the user needs one cloud facility which syncs data across all devices the user links to it. (I can't work out why people want different data on different devices. This must make backing up a nightmare.) In an ideal world all apps would function on all OS - by which I mean same look, same functionality with some regard for the physical limitations of the device. If a user can store their data in the cloud with confidence and security then there is no need for anything more than a screen to work on. One poster refers to a mobile device (singular), but it is not clear to me what for this will take. Most mobile phones are too small for apps, most tablets/ultra books are too big for audio comms. At the moment. 3/5 years sooner rather than later in my view.

i don't know how BB10 handle synchronization, i assume it is better than previous OS. about cloud services, there are lots of cloud services out there, but i still haven't found the one that i can sync from/to my blackberry. I did a search on appworld about cloud services for blackberry devices, and so far only got a few (like sugarsync, dropbox, pogoplug etc) but when i read the app reviews i think i still haven't found what i'm looking for (if anyone know any cloud service that have a good app for blackberry please let me know ^^).

i agree with chris, i hope blackberry provides it's own cloud service. that way i can feel more safe syncing my files from/to my pc/blackberry.

i don't really need to sync everything in my blackberry from/to my pc, though some things may be better if i can sync it. like songs/movies/photos, docs, calendar/appointments. i don't want to share my contacts or emails or text messages or bbm history to cloud though, i think those should stay only on my blackberry (and at blackberry protect server).

I would like to be able to sync everything, everywhere, effortlessly. I hope they support Linux, or at least Ubuntu for desktop.
I'd really like RIM to build consumer and industry pc's.
Or, how about making BB 10 / QNX available as a software download a la Ubuntu?
I have never been satisfied with Microsoft or Apple - I made the mistake of switching desktop and laptop to Apple and am now switching back.
IMHO, BB 10 could do a better job than both of them. At least it would be secure and compatible!


Microsoft end user "Cloud" is the Microsoft cloud which is connected via your account (Microsoft cloud is a re-brand and upgrade of the existing Windows Live cloud they had). They have Outlook (hotmail) for email, calendar, and contacts, skydrive, xbox etc.

Microsoft's true cloud solution is Azure, which hosts the Microsoft cloud.

To answer your question, I need:

1) Calendar
2) Contacts
3) Document storage

BlackBerry acquired Gist which was a contact management application. It had a cloud back end. I was hoping they will build something to utilitize it.

With BlackBerry Protect, they have some method to backup and restore calendar and contacts. They need to expand on it.

Multiple calendar sync with Google or some other reliable service. Also syncing contacts, tasks, notes, documents, images, videos, music. Tight integration with some existing cloud services will help a lot -- Google Drive, Skydrive,, Dropbox, etc. However, we still need multiple Google calendar sync, sharing notes, tasks, etc.

I want to sync EVERYTHING and take full advantage of my unlimited data plan on Verizon. Motorola offers that through MotoCast, but I fear its not as secure as I know BlackBerry can make.

Agreed...contacts, doc's, pic's and PPT are essential but why can't they sell, space in their version to accommodate anything and everything....ya want lots...cost is up, want just basic cost is minimal to nothing.

As we're talking about cloud services, have RIM done anything with NewBay yet? I know there was some talk of selling them off again a while back, but I'm not sure if that actually happened.

This is really important. I believe whoever nails this will own the mobile computing market.

I want:

A seamless unified experience. Make it accessible from any device at any time.

OTA sync in real time. Let me set the preferences and not have to worry about it again.

Sync all PIM information. Emails, contacts, SMS, MMS, Calendars, tasks, all of it.

Any device anywhere can update the information at any time. I don't want a manual sync that asks me which record I want to keep for John Doe, since they have both changed since the last sync.

Look at Amazon's whispersync. It works on my laptop, desktop, iPad, Kindle, 9900 - almost any platform. I don't mind logging in to a website on my PC to read the book, as long as it appears seamlessly on my mobile devices.

I just cancelled my Franklin Covey PlanPlus Online subscription because it destroys multi-day events when syncing them to my Outlook calendar. Otherwise, it is a great idea whose time has come. Make sure whatever is developed really works.

Sync with native contacts, tasks, and calendar.

Email is a real pain at this time. If I want a copy of an email on my devices, I have to copy myself. Just makes it messy.

Need to be able to share information with others - including calendars. Need a good deal of control over this so I can share that I'm unavailable without going into details of my personal appointments.

Basically, I want Outlook Live, BES, ToDoMatrix Pro, Evernote, Dropbox, and AirSet, cross platform on all of my devices. :P

I want a true business tool, not a toy...that said, BB should use their security prowess coupled with an industry first and bring us real time accounting to the cloud....I'm talking full blown access to work my accounting software from anywhere through my BB device. Not some obscure accounting app...full blown industry leading Quick Books PRO or similar so I can use its power to sell clients, run meeting etc....anyone whose run around like a weenie printing a mountain of paper just to forget to print whatever some asks for will agree whole hearted with me.

This would truly be powerful and through your BB10, bridged to a PlayBook....awesome.

Office 365. you get BEZ and pretty much everything mentioned in the comments is a non issue for me. BEZ and Exchange is an amazing combination. I switched away from Gmail a year or so ago and could not be happier. Get yourself an Office 365 account, it is worth the little extra money.

Office 365 also works perfectly on my PlayBook and iPad, my Windows computer and my Mac (same maching but I never use OSX). You cannot believe how good it is until you try it.

All I need is the process to be simpler and more inclusive of the full use of data on all my devices. . . RSS and podcast syncing would be nice to

Microsoft SharePoint workspaces. I can set them up for remote use on my laptop or any other computer and all the changes I make are synchronized as soon as I am connected to the Internet from any of these devices. It also supports group collaboration

Honestly I'm not really concerned about cloud computing, nor do I think it's important for me.

All that counts is keeping multiple backups handy in the event a disaster should happen electronically and a restore being required right away, that backup would be accessible right away.

Only selected information should be in the cloud, not everything. But that's just me.

For creative and business people the PC is far from dead. Mobile platforms (tablets, smartphones) don't provide the best interface for creating things (presentations, marketing materials, etc). PCs still fill that gap far better than Apps on Tablets.